Every passenger bus in Victoria will be fitted with perspex security screens and loop barriers to protect drivers from the risk of violent assault following a long and hard-fought TWU campaign.
It is expected the full roll-out of new security screens on about 2000 existing buses will cost an estimated $10 million, to be split evenly between the state authority Public Transport Victoria and operators. All new buses that enter service will also have screens fitted. Read The Age article about the big TWU win.
TWU (Vic/Tas Branch) Secretary John Berger said it was pleasing that a process started by the TWU in 2010 – with the establishment of a TWU Screens Committee following an attack on a Dandenong bus driver and culminating in a driver safety protest on the steps of State Parliament last month – had forced authorities to better protect drivers.
“These measures are a direct result of a considerable effort by the TWU on behalf of our honest and hard-working members. Like every other worker across society, bus drivers deserve the right to go to work and return home each day, safe and free from unprovoked and cowardly physical and verbal assaults,” he said.
“I want to recognise the tireless work of our bus organisers Mike McNess, Bob Lean and Imran Malik and also our delegates and members for sticking together and fighting hard for this important win. I would also like to thank PTV, the State Government and bus operators for supporting the TWU-driver safety program. I actually feel a great relief for all bus drivers and commuters that the authorities are finally beginning to understand what the TWU have been saying for all these years.
“However, no time should be wasted to begin the installation of safety devices as violent assaults on drivers continue to be reported.
“I am also appalled that some passengers have in recent weeks even threatened to set Melbourne drivers alight in reference to the sickening murder of Brisbane bus driver Manmeet Alisher on October 28.”
One recent incident also saw a passenger attempt to spit on a driver. This was prevented by a perspex security screen as recommended by the TWU. This particular bus is yet to be retro-fitted with the security loop barrier as initiated by the TWU.
John said discussions will continue with all industry stakeholders in a bid to have separate driver cabins, similar to those already in trams, installed in buses and mandatory minimum penalties introduced for those found guilty of assaulting bus drivers.
Since 2011, over 100 Victorian bus drivers have been physically-assaulted and 33 verbally-abused, including racially-vilified, according to Transport Safety Victoria.
At least 16 physical assaults on drivers have already been reported this year.
As members already know, the catalyst for much of the increasing violence towards drivers was the introduction of Myki and the fact that drivers are contractually obliged to ask passengers to touch on. Drivers report that passenger objections to being asked to pay a fare are the most common spark for violent and aggressive behaviour.
We are also pleased to announce that there has also been a breakthrough in driver touch-on obligations.
If a bus driver does not feel safe requesting a particular passenger to touch on, they don’t have to.
The TWU now has all operators, state government, PTV and the Bus Association of Victoria on-board with this campaign. Including Ventura (finally).
All operators have now been instructed to adopt this uniform position. Our members are the experts. If you have a regular fare evader or trouble maker who causes problems when asked to touch on, don’t ask them.
If you feel that requesting a particular passenger to touch-on is going to create conflict, don’t ask them.
Obviously any passenger that requests a top-up is not going to be a problem and members should perform that function. Presumably, these passenger will do the right thing.
For further information, read the latest TWU News.